Benefits, How to Make One, and Risks
- A sitz bath is a treatment that may help with discomfort in and around your anus and genitals.
- It also helps with pain after giving birth, especially after undergoing an episiotomy.
- You may also get relief from hemorrhoids and anal fissues, since a sitz bath can help soothe swelling.
If you’ve been struggling with certain conditions of the anogenital region — meaning the area of your genitals and anus — you may have heard of using sitz baths as a remedy.
A sitz bath is a shallow bath that you soak your anogenital region in to relieve any discomfort in the area.
You can accomplish this by using your regular bathtub and only filling it up a little bit, or by purchasing a commercially-available sitz bath, which is usually a small basin that you can put over your toilet.
Here’s what you need to know about the benefits of sitz baths and how to make one.
What are the benefits of a sitz bath?
“Warm sitz baths help to alleviate itching, pain, and discomfort associated with anorectal and vaginal complaints,” says Dr. Walter Longo, chief of gastrointestinal surgery at Yale Medicine and professor of colon and rectal surgery at Yale School of Medicine.
Here are four specific benefits of sitz baths.
1. May help treat anal fissures
Anal fissures are tears in the lining of the anus that can cause pain and bleeding when you poop. They can also cause your anal sphincter to spasm.
A 2019 study found that sitz baths help relieve anal fissure pain by improving blood circulation and reducing anal pressure, which is the feeling of needing to poop.
Sitz baths help relieve discomfort and allow the anal sphincter to relax, ultimately improving your symptoms and helping the fissures to heal.
2. May help treat hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids are another condition that increases anal pressure, Longo says. Sitz baths can help relieve discomfort and pain associated with these inflamed, swollen veins in the anus and rectum by reducing swelling.
A 2018 study of pregnant women with hemorrhoids found that taking a sitz bath three times a day was more effective at completely healing hemorrhoids than using an anorectal cream.
Furthermore, Longo says sitz baths may be recommended post-anorectal surgery. If you’re having hemorrhoid removal surgery, sitz baths may help relieve pain while you heal – but ask your doctor first for their post-op instructions.
3. May help with postpartum recovery
Sitz baths can help clean and soothe your perineum after giving birth, says Dr. Jamie Leavitt, an OB-GYN at Providence Mission Hospital.
If you’ve given birth vaginally, it’s normal to feel pain in the area for weeks after delivery –– especially if you had a tear. Leavitt says sitz baths can help increase blood flow to the tissue of the perineum while cleaning and soothing the area, helping to relieve pain. This will also promote healing.
Furthermore, some doctors recommend sitz baths for recovery after an episiotomy, says Longo.
For the same above reasons, sitz baths will help relieve pain and promote healing from an episiotomy. Just be sure to wait 24 hours after giving birth to take the first bath.
A 2017 study of women who were recovering from an episiotomy found that sitz baths were more effective than no intervention at improving wound healing and pain levels.
4. May help with Bartholin’s cysts
A Bartholin’s cyst occurs when the Bartholin’s glands in the vaginal area become blocked and inflamed, creating a cyst that may become infected. Oftentimes, no formal medical intervention is needed, and home remedies like sitz baths are enough to help.
Taking sitz baths multiple times a day for a few days can help get the cyst to drain or rupture.
A 2015 review found that sitz baths are a great option for Bartholin’s cysts that can rupture on their own since surgical drainage is likely to make a cyst reoccur or form an abscess.
How to make a sitz bath
Making a sitz bath is simple. You can use your regular bath or a smaller basin. Leavitt recommends following these guidelines:
1. Fill up the bath with four to five inches of warm water. Make sure the water is warm enough, but not too hot to burn you. If you’re using a commercially available sitz bath, or even a large bowl or basin you have, add just enough water so it doesn’t overflow when you sit in it.
2. Add in additional ingredients, if applicable. Some recommend adding in epsom salt, or your doctor might prescribe additional medication, such as an antibiotic, to add into the water, Leavitt says.
3. Sit in the bath and make sure your butt and genitals are fully covered in water.
4. Soak for around 15 minutes.
5. When you’re out of the bath, thoroughly and gently pat yourself dry.
Risks of a sitz bath
Taking a sitz bath comes along with very minimal risk, says Longo. Essentially, you’re just taking a bath, and it’s non-invasive.
However, in rare cases, there is a risk of developing an infection of the perineum –– particularly if you have an open surgical wound and you don’t thoroughly clean your bathtub or plastic sitz bath basic after each use, says Leavitt.
To reduce this risk, Leavitt suggests making sure your bath stays clean and never sharing your sitz bath with someone else.
“Stop taking a sitz bath if your pain or itching gets worse, or if your perineum becomes red and puffy, contact your doctor immediately,” Leavitt says.
Most people will take sitz baths one to three times a day, but there really isn’t a detriment to taking more, says Longo. It’s best to consult your doctor for advice on how frequently you should take sitz baths and for how long to get the best results.
A sitz bath is a shallow bath that promotes healing and reduces discomfort related to conditions ranging from anal fissures to postpartum recovery. These baths are easy, soothing, and low-risk.
Be sure to ask your doctor what the best course of action is when it comes to how often you should take sitz baths, as well as if you should be adding anything into them. Everyone is different, and you want to be careful, especially if you have open wounds.